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Interview Skills for Your High Schooler

A bi-weekly column on Fredericksburg.Today by Elizabeth Colon, Above Grade Level Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia

I realize that many of your high-schoolers have already solidified a summer job, but for those that are still working on it or have been declined for an opportunity, here are some interview skills to help.

Prepare ahead of time: Role play common interview questions with your student.  A simple Google search will give you a plethora of questions to work through. Make sure the questions are open ended.
Include situational questions in the role play:  Tell me about a time when…. Make sure their answers involve the situation, their behavior and the outcome.  For example, “Tell me about a time when you had to work with a team to accomplish a goal?”  “I was assigned to work in a group of four to complete an English project.  We met initially to delegate responsibilities.  Each person took a portion of the assignment.  We had three weeks to complete our individual portions.  I set small goals over the three week period and met each mini deadline in order to ensure my part was completed.  When we met, we put together each transition and came together to present a great project.  In the end, we received an A for our hard work.”  Situation-Behavior-Outcome!
What is a weakness really?:  Often employers will ask about a candidates greatest weakness, or weaknesses.  Your student should never answer with something that can be perceived as a weakness or strength. As someone who hires often, this is a frustration point for me.  I want to know a candidates weakness because I want to know that they can recognize it and manage it.  This might sound something like, “I procrastinate with large projects sometimes.  I can easily be overwhelmed by the magnitude of a project and in order to ensure it is done timely and not the night before it’s due, I’ve learned to break the project into small mini projects with individual deadlines- this keeps me from procrastinating.  When given a deadline here, I would implement the same strategy.”
Why are you interested in working at……? I ask this question all the time and sometimes I get the response, “I need a job.”  While this may be true and honest it reflects a lack of research and true desire to work where your student is interviewing.  Make sure they prepare an honest but researched answer.  For example, “I am interested in working here because I have done a lot of research on the career opportunities you offer.  I know that I can start as a summer intern, apply for a paying position, and then advance into management.”  This answer lets me know they need a job but that they have long term interest in staying with my company.
While our website does not specifically say that we offer interview and resume writing tutoring, I personally have a passion for helping our youth prepare for the “real world.”  If working with your student on the above creates conflict, I would love to help.  Please contact me!

Read Elizabeths’ other Fredericksburg.Today columns.
Columns on Fredericksburg.Today are recurrent features on specific topics or by regular contributors.  Guest writers present their own point-of-view and may not necessarily represent the viewpoint of Fredericksburg.Today.

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